Tuesday 21 January 2020 4:04 pm

Lekoil receives stay of execution as operator delays payment deadline

Investors in embattled Lekoil, which was last week embroiled in an extraordinary saga involving a fake investment fund, could breathe a sigh of relief today the operator of the Nigerian oil field the fake loan was meant to support said it would delay the deadline of Lekoil’s payment of $9.6m for costs.

Optimum, which operates the OPL 310 license off the western coast of Africa, said that the firm would now have to pay $2m by 20 March, with the full amount due by 2 May.

Lekoil will also have to prove that it can fund 42.9 per cent of the costs for the first well on the new field.

The oil explorer’s shares rose 20 per cent on the back of the news.

Chief executive Lekan Akinyanmi thanked Optimum for its “support and commitment.”

He added: “This alignment with our partner is crucial in unlocking significant value for all our investors and stakeholders.”

Last Tuesday shares in Lekoil fell over 70 per cent after the company revealed that it had fallen victim to the alleged fraud, which involved individuals pretending to be representatives of the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA).

Upon announcing the $184m loan, the QIA contacted Lekoil to question the validity of the loan, which led to the AIM-listed firm’s shares being suspended.

Without the funding in question, Lekoil needs to find $40m by next month, so Optimum’s announcement is a welcome break for the firm.

In a statement, Lekoil said the deal “seems to have been entered into by the company with individuals who have constructed a complex facade in order to masquerade as representatives of the QIA.”

Sources close to QIA told City A.M. that the fund had no knowledge of any loan.

The company later confirmed a full investigation into the fake deal, which was intended for the financing of drilling and development on the Ogo field off Nigeria.

Particular scrutiny fell on Seawave Invest, the consultancy which introduced Lekoil to the people purporting to be from the QIA.

Lekoil paid the firm, which has offices in the Bahamas and Ghana, $600,000 for facilitating the meeting.

Later Seawave was accused of falsely trading on the name of another business with which it failed to make a deal.

The consultancy listed Canadian healthcare firm Kallo on its website, despite not having permission to do so. The Financial Times reported that the company had been approached by Seawave over a potential partnership, but nothing had materialised.

Seawave has now updated its the webpage in question to show the message “update in progress”, and said that it would launch its own investigation into the fraud.